But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees. For man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
It would appear to many that the ongoing debate about who the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL is was finally settled on February 5, 2017 in Houston. I know, many will not agree, but even the worst of Tom Brady’s critics can’t deny that what they saw in the final quarter and a half of Super Bowl 51 was the greatest comeback, if not the greatest performance, in the history of the Super Bowl. Down 28 to 3 against a team that looked like it could not be stopped, who really thought that the New England Patriots would, or even could, come back?
As a longtime New England resident before moving back to California, the Patriots eventually became my team, due in part to the fact that if I was going to watch football in the Northeast, I would have to watch Patriots games. It turned out to be a pretty propitious time to be a Pats fan. I watched them win Super Bowls, watched as they lost two heartbreaking championships to the New York Giants, and rejoiced when they snatched another championship victory from the Seattle Seahawks in the waning moments of Super Bowl 49. However, I never saw anything in professional sports like what I saw in that Sunday night game this February. When it was all over, not only was Brady awarded his fifth Super Bowl victory and fourth Super Bowl MVP, he inherited the title of “greatest to ever play the game.”
We’re drawing closer to the point of all this, in case you’re thinking that this is just the gloating of a long-time Pats fan. What we saw in Houston on February 5, 2017 was certainly a great display of skill, execution under pressure, and team effort, but more than anything else, it was a display of heart. By now, we’ve all heard that Brady was a sixth-round draft choice, nearly overlooked by the National Football League. A number (six in fact) of quarterbacks with greater athleticism were chosen before him. None of them are playing football today, but Brady will soon be wearing his fifth Super Bowl ring.
His scouting report is now legendary:
- Poor Build
- Lacks great physical stature and strength
- Lacks mobility
- Lacks a really strong arm
- Can’t drive a team down the field
Well, the fact is, Tom Brady wasn’t the first to have a bad “scouting report” that missed the whole point of what made him great. The same mistake was made regarding the man who would one day become King of Israel, and even worse, the mistaken report came from his own family! When the prophet, Samuel, was told by God to go to Jesse’s house to anoint one of his sons to be King, the proud patriarch of the family assembled his best and brightest before the man of God.
First in line, and certain to be a first-round draft choice, was Eliab. He had all the qualifications one looks for in a King. Like Saul before him (who, by the way, had begun to struggle and had made a few serious fumbles), Eliab looked every bit the part. Even Samuel, who had a pretty good eye for talent, thought it was going to be a short day at the office. His job looked done. “When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him’” (1 Samuel 16:6). However, God was looking for something beyond a good throwing arm. In fact, God wasn’t looking at his physical prowess or good looks at all. The real qualifications for success with God have always gone far beneath the skin. As Michael Jordon will tell you, what makes a champion is not merely skill or athleticism, but what you have in your heart.
After going through all of Jesse’s sons, the promised King was not found. At last, almost as if grudgingly, Jesse confessed, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” It was only then, after the draft was nearly over, that the one voted “least likely to be succeed” was brought forward. “And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, ‘Arise, anoint him, for this is he.’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward (1 Samuel 16:12-13). It would be great to be able to say that at that moment the debate was settled, but it was not so. David would still have to earn the respect, not only of his brothers, but of the nation as well. That day would soon come when, playing against the “giants,” a sling and a stone would not only win the day but start the buzz that maybe, just maybe, they were watching greatness in the making. In fact, even King Saul took notice, and a rivalry began that would threaten David’s life and kingship for years to come.
David was not a perfect man. He made mistakes and paid dearly for them. There were times it looked like his career as King could be over, especially when his own son threatened his position. What made David the gold standard when it came to came to the Kings of Israel was his heart. In fact, God said of David that he was “a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22). It wasn’t what David had on the outside that made him great. Others judging him by his outward appearance grossly underestimated him: his father, his brothers, Goliath, and Saul. All of them were eclipsed by David, not because of some external advantage he possessed, but because of what lay beneath the surface.
David’s is the perfect underdog story. No, we won’t all be anointed as King, but what we learn from David is that we don’t have to be endowed with the best talent, have the biggest muscles, have the right connections, or be among those considered to be the brightest. We may have been mocked and marginalized by those who were considered experts, but if we, like David, have a heart that “follows close” after God (Psalm 63:8) and determine to pursue His purpose, come what may, we can be great in the Lord’s eyes. And there is no greater measure of success, in all the world, than that.
Steve Mariucci, former 49er’s coach and NFL commentator, was one of those who underestimated Tom Brady when he came out for the combine. Like a lot of coaches, he missed out on drafting Brady. All these years later, he’s humble enough to admit it. “There’s more to a person than their GPA, their resume or their measurables. You have to also try to get inside a person and see if you can find out about their heart, what makes them tick.” Lots of Goliaths have fallen to people who were greatly underestimated by experts who couldn’t see beyond the superficial. There’s nothing wrong with working on those external areas where we can improve, but in the end, it’s really what you have on the inside that carries the day.
 Bill Burt, “The One That Got Away: How the 49er’s Never Gave Tom Brady a Chance”; available from http://www.eagletribune.com/news/the-one-that-got-away-how-the-ers-never-gave/article_7e44c459-2908-5bf7-b4d1-0ad155b9ff23.html; internet; accessed (22 February 2017).
Dr. Randy Bunch is the pastor of West Kern Christian Center, located at 1000 6th Street in Taft, as well as a graduate advisor and adjunct professor at Summit Bible College in Bakersfield, California. He is the author of several books, including his new devotional, Immutable: Changeless Truth for a Changing World. For more information, or to purchase your copy, go to immuntablebook.com. For more information on the ministries of WKCC, you can go the ministry’s website at wkcconnect.org.